Truly, Madly Viking
by Sandra Hill, time-travel (2000)
LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52387-6

Sandra Hill's Truly, Madly Viking is a sequel to The Last Viking. I'm not a fan of Ms Hill's Viking stories, but Truly, Madly Viking, the beef cover art notwithstanding, is well worth a read or two for the laughs and the poignant tale of a secondary character suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. The heroine is one of the best heroines from this author as well, and the hero is fun.

Viking Jorund Ericsson has barely recovered from the death of his beloved daughters (the shrewish wife - okay, he'll spare a thought for her too, just one thought) when he is told that his brother Geirolf (hero of The Last Viking is missing. While on a search for Geirolf, his ship sunk and Jorund clings on an Orca whale to save himself. They resurface in... 2000, at Orcaland Park. A very naked, brawny man on a whale wailing to be a Viking in year 2000 gets what he deserves - a stint in the psychiatric ward.

Dr Maggie McBride isn't aware that Jorund's arrival at the place she works may be due to her twin daughters' wish for a daddy. But she is aware that this very naked, very sexy man is not only too sexy for his own good, he is also truly nuts. And Jorund - "Joe" - is really confused. He has to use some strange metallic potty, shrewish unfeminine women "Norses" keep poking at him, and worst is that Mag-he woman whom he'd bet isn't a lady. The strange box with magic, moving pictures is pretty cool though. Maybe he'd take that with him when he finally gets out of here and finds Geirolf. And maybe he'll take that Mag-he too, to teach that woman a lesson or two in Viking Deportment.

Naturally, Joe bonds with Mag-he's daughters, and he bonds with Maggie too in a very different but enjoyable manner. While I d enjoy reading about Joe, I'm more reserved when it comes to Maggie's predictable denial of Joe's origin, which takes a bit too long even in the face of the obvious. Still, she isn't shrill or whiny, which is very good for a Sandra Hill heroine.

The laughter comes fast and hard, naturally. But what is more memorable to me is the character of Steve, a former Navy SEAL who is suffering of PTS. Obviously Steve isn't one of Suzanne Brockmann's heroes. Steve bonds with Joe, who understands him better than anyone in the ward, and this man's eventual happy ending makes me sigh mistily where Joe and Maggie couldn't. Can't help wishing it is his story I'm reading. It is Steve who provides poignancy to balance the manic humor of the novel.

I do have some reservations though. Even though the author said in her afterword that mental illness is no laughing matter, some of the humor here comes from Joe making accurate predictions of inmates' troubles where Maggie and her supposedly overly literate and can't-see-forest-for-trees colleagues couldn't. As a former medical practitioner who has worked with some inmates at one time in my life, I have faced with such attitudes in my brief tenure (I was doing research there actually), and to read of such really irritating prejudice in a novel is a bit too much for me.

Still, Truly, Madly Viking shouldn't be taken that seriously. It's still grand entertainment.

Rating: 85

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